Kampala, Uganda–Explosions tore through crowds watching the World Cup final at a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant in the Ugandan capital, killing at least 64 people including an American aid worker, officials said.
The Inspector General of Ugandan police Kale Kayihura linked the explosions to recent threats by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-inspired Shabab militia against countries that have sent troops to the African Union (AU) peace force there.
Shabab leader Mohamed Abdi Godane on July 5 accused the AU peacekeepers– comprising Ugandan and Burundian troops– of killing civilians in Mogadishu and called on Somalis to join the war against “the enemy of Allah.”
“You know there have been declarations from Shabab and Al-Qaeda. Terrorism is a modern-day threat. You know the region we are in and our commitment in Somalia,” Kayihura said.
“Obviously this is terrorism. That one is clear,” he added. “At this stage we can’t rule out anything.”
The explosions hit an Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala, a crowded suburb in the south of Kampala littered with several pubs popular with football fans, and a rugby sports club in the eastern region of the capital city.
“These bombs were definitely targeting World Cup crowds,” Kayihura said.
One American national was among those killed in the attacks, a US embassy spokeswoman said.
“At this time we can confirm that one American has been killed,” said Joann Lockard. “I have no further information about American citizens.”
An AFP correspondent saw three wounded US citizens at Kampala’s main Mulago hospital where dozens other injured people had been taken for treatment.
“We just wanted to watch the World Cup, unfortunately we went to the Ethiopian village,” said 18-year-old Chris Sledge who suffered serious injuries to his legs and a bruised eye. “I feel OK. Am gonna need surgery.”
US President Barack Obama called the deadly explosions “deplorable and cowardly”, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.
“The United States is ready to provide any assistance requested by the Ugandan government,” he added.